Dakota became a part of the Hoffman family in 2001, at the beginning of my senior year of high school. I spent a lot of time with him that year—I'm the youngest of my siblings, and at that point it was mostly me, Dakota and my parents around the house. My dad was diagnosed with cancer later that year, and this puppy provided some much needed comfort in a time of uncertainty. Then I went off to college and threw Dakota for a loop. I was away for long stretches, then around again for a couple weeks or a couple months at a time, depending on the break from school. This pattern has continued as I've lived at home a few times in my adulthood—briefly after college, again after a trip abroad in 2009, and then again last winter before my husband and I moved into our new home (such a typical millennial, huh?). Every time I come home, whether it's been a month, a week, or a day, Dakota greets me with extreme enthusiasm. He usually trips over himself on his way to the front door, and has actually knocked me over a couple of times. I also have to spend a good five to ten minutes saying hello to him before I can even greet my parents.
After a lifetime of intermittent ailments, my mom called me this morning to tell me his health had deteriorated very quickly over the weekend. I was crushed. I left work hastily with eyes full of tears, knowing I wanted to be with him as much as I could before having to say goodbye. When I arrived at my parent's house, he couldn't get up, and could barely lift his head, but he was still excited to see me. My dad told me it's the most responsive he's been in days. I sat next to him all afternoon, petting his head and reflecting on all the stages of life he's seen me through.
It breaks my heart to say goodbye and it is going to break my heart every time I come to visit my parents without being greeted by Dakota with fervor, but he had a great life, and was a great friend, and I am so thankful for his love and loyalty throughout the years.
Rest in peace Dakota.